So you want to start a business, eh? Starting a business is exciting and sometimes a little bit scary. There are so many things involved in a startup that it can at times be overwhelming. And although you may have an incredible money-making idea, you may not have a clue where to start. The fear of the unknown has a way of holding people back, but with a little bit of information and knowledge you will be well on your way to seeing your idea turn into the business of your dreams.
Here are 14 must-do tasks, a startup checklist, if you will, that can help make this process seem less intimidating:
1- Determine Viability
This is the time to be brutally honest with yourself. The point of anyone starting a business is to make money. Will yours be profitable? Ask yourself: Would you personally use the product? Can you find 10+ people that would be willing to pay for it now? What do you love to do and how different is it from your idea? How fast can you take the idea to market? You’ll also need to run the numbers: Will your customers pay enough for your product or service to make your business profitable, and will you be able to cover the cost?
Here is a list of more questions to ask yourself by noted investor, Paul Graham.
2- Create a Business Plan
A good business plan can make or break your long-term and immediate profitability. Make sure it’s one that fits you personally and reaches out to your target market. Owning a business is something people choose to be in for the long haul, so your business plan should be something that you can live with every single day. Identify your strengths and weaknesses and come up with a business plan that caters to your strengths.
3- Figure Out the Money
Ah yes, the money. This can often be at the top of the worry list. But it’s a necessary part of the startup process. Most new businesses take more time than expected to get up and running. Within the first year of starting this process you’ll need to have a good grasp on your living expenses (savings, current income, spouse’s income, etc.) and you’ll need to start looking for business financing as soon as possible.
4- Get Family on Board
The amount of time you will spend getting your business going can often take a toll on personal relationships. Talk to your spouse, family, and friends and make sure they understand your vision and support you. This will make the process much smoother.
5- Choose Your Business Name
First of all, you’ll want to think of a name that your target audience will remember. Make sure the business name you choose is unique and that another business doesn’t already have it. Do a Google search with a corporate name search tool to make sure yours is one of a kind.
6- Register a Domain Name
This is a much bigger one than you may expect. Online marketing is a necessary part of any business in our world. The internet has transformed the way people are doing business and your domain name can be the reason people find you online or why your website falls into the internet black hole. When picking your domain name you want to keep it simple. Stay clear of domain names with numbers or characters. Try to get it as close to your business name as possible.
7- Figure Out Legal Structure
Take the steps to talk to your attorney and accountant to make sure that all your legal matters are in order. Incorporating your startup will protect your personal assets.
8- Apply for a Business License
You may need more than one license for your business. Spend some time investigating the state and local requirements for your industry. Try the U.S. Small Business Administration for more information on licensing your business.
9- Set Up a Website
This one revisits your domain name. Without a good one, your website will struggle to help you make a profit. Try to have your website up and running as soon as possible. Even if you don’t have your products listed on it, you still want information about your company floating around on the internet.
10- Social Media
Set up accounts that are branded by your business. Social media is a big time player in the world of online marketing. They help you reach out to your target audience and can have a big impact on the success of your website.
11- Find an Office Space
If you do not have a retail or brick-and-mortar business, then this is one step that you can put on the back burner for a little while. For some, a lease is an unnecessary expense during the startup process. However, if you do need space immediately to make your startup a success, pay attention to foot traffic and accessibility. They will factor into the number of people that walk into your store.
12- Order Business Cards
In the beginning stages, and throughout the life of your business, you’ll be doing a lot of networking. Being able to hand out a business card with all your information to the right people says that you are a professional and will add to your credibility.
13- Open a Business Bank Account
Don’t use your personal bank account for your business. This can cause tangles and more work down the road for your accountant. Get a separate account for your business as soon as possible.
14- Assign Responsibilities to Co-Founders
It is extremely important that you and your co-founders (if any) know exactly what your responsibilities are. Make sure you put it in writing. Disagreements between you and your co-founder can lead to your business’s demise.
Although there are many steps and tasks in between and definitely after, these 14 steps are a good place to start when thinking about setting up your own business. Think smart, ask yourself the right questions, and watch your company grow.